It’s good to know that Crystal is stepping into territory
normally associated with labels such as ABC and Tall Poppies.
This is all music with a strong Australian angle, either written
by its composers or in the case of Douglas Knehans who now lives
there and in Christopher Marshall’s case, who was brought
up there but who now lives in America.
Sculthorpe’s Baltimore Songlines
is the most recent
of the quintet of works to have been written. Opening with a
lullaby, its lyrical journey winds with a mesmeric sense across
the musical landscape taking in didgeridoo (didjeridu if you’re
taken by new spelling) impersonation and a kind of Australasian
cimbalom sound-world that sounds as authentically rooted in the
soil, as does, say, Bartók. After a quarter of an hour
there is a kind of ecstasy of arrival.
Barry Conyngham wrote Playground
in 2002. Due to its genesis
- a memorial inscription, in a playground, to a child ‘who
loved to play’ - this is a work shot through with ominous
shards and scurrying prismic patterns. There are also taut, mercurial,
jagged moments, as well as dreamlike refractions - especially
in the watery piano part. Held notes and pizzicati are part of
this aural picture, as are turbulent piano interjections, and
some moments of electronic flutter, that summon up the playground
bustle, and seem to embrace the music as it ends.
took us in unusual aural and expressive
directions, Douglas Knehans gives up a modishly lower case rive
It’s the only thing I didn’t like about it. Maybe
there are other pieces about the Tasmanian Devil, but I can’t
think of one off-hand. Rive means ‘ripping apart’ by
the way and so ‘muscular dismemberment’, in the composer’s
words, is the name of the game. As a result the writing is sinewy
and powerful and takes the opening material gradually to pieces
either with aggression or with foraging surety. Hints of Nyman
perhaps, especially in the piano writing.
The Four Miniatures
of Richard Mills are ingenious and
brief. The second is a fast toccata with slower, more wanly lyric
contrastive material. The Adagio
is the centre piece though,
in terms of concentrated expression, alternating between drifting
quietude and outright turbulence. There are some hints of Berg
in the last of the four, a determined Presto
. From four
to three; Christopher Marshall’s Three Aspects of Spring
the programme in hugely enjoyable style. The first, October
, is a delightfully carefree and melodic outpouring
whilst the second is suffused with birdcall fragments, forest
rich with teeming life. The last is Synergy
a Solomon Island panpipe tune and is duly celebratory.
It ends a notably well recorded recital. Notes on the works are
by the composers, which is a plus. Admirers of Australian contemporaries
or their near-relations should not fear to explore.